At St. John’s Church, Arichat on the south east coast of Cape Breton Island the bell tower stands as a beacon to help fishing and pleasure boats navigate their way safely into the harbour. And so it’s been for well over a century. The building was designed by Island architect William Harris, the same one who designed our building.
That same bell tower houses a big old bell and carillon chimes. Traditionally, the bell was rung for a full half hour before every worship service, and could be heard, they say, over half of Isle Madame. It called people to worship and hurried horse and buggy to make it to worship on time. The chimes were meant to ring for ten minutes every day at noon. It was as if it wasn’t really lunch-time until the chimes said so.
I didn’t know any of this until the Church Council met to discuss fixing the chimes and returning to the tradition of ringing the bell to call people to worship. All that was needs was a rope for the bell and a timer for the chimes. After the chimes had been working for a year or so I was driving through the village and noticed some roofers working away on shingling. It was well past noon so I guessed that the chimes hadn’t rung. I went to the church and saw that the timer was way off. I reset the time and turned on the chimes. Sure enough, when I looked out the men were off the roof and digging into their lunch pails.
“Here’s the church, here’s the steeple…” Each of us is a steeple, a bell, carillon chimes: calling people to worship, to take a break from the day-to-day grind. Maybe some people don’t answer the call because they fear that we will judge them, or that we’ve already judged them. Our Gospel lesson today (Luke 13:1-9) contains a parable that tells us that, not only is Jesus about not judging, he is about giving everyone yet another chance. Now that’s Good News! That’s the sound that calls the world to worship.